As the calendar flipped to February, the University Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid kicked off its FAFSA Campaign Week with a tabling event Monday morning.
“Our main goal is to advise students to complete the FAFSA and their financial aid file by the March 1 priority date,” said Hilerie Harris, spokesperson and scholarship counselor for the financial aid office.
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, helps U.S. students get financial aid for college, such as grants or loans. The U’s filing campaign consists primarily of tabling events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day this week at various locations across campus. Office representatives will be available to answer any questions about the financial aid process and scholarship opportunities.
The hands-on-help may come in handy when filling out the lengthy application, which asks more than 100 questions about a students’ life, family and financial situation. For Nik Kerry, a junior in computer animation, the application is “a big, big nightmare.”
“You need sheets and sheets of stuff,” Kerry said, referring to the required documentation. “I was like, ‘I don’t even know what these things are.'”
Aside from the complicated paperwork, though, Kerry said his experience applying for financial aid went generally quite smooth. He was awarded a pell grant after filing a FAFSA form, along with a scholarship from the U. He did need to take out a small student loan, but stressed that it was only supplementary.
“If I work hard, I should be able to pay it off in a few years,” Kerry said.
Harris encouraged all students to submit an application, even if they don’t expect to receive a package. As the nation’s largest provider of student financial aid, the Federal Student Aid Office under the U.S. Department of Education awards more than $150 billion in grants, loans and work-study programs to college and professional school students each year.
Of the approximately 22 million FAFSA applications received each year, 13 million received some form of aid.
“All eligible students should apply,” Harris said. “All students qualify for some source of financial aid. Even if loans are offered, you do not have to take them.”
Harris recommends getting organized in advance and carefully keeping track of important deadlines, including the priority application date. She also encourages students to file their federal taxes early in order to replace the estimates on their FAFSA with official data as quickly as possible.